Healthcare workers want changes to PPE distribution and transparency


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses’ Association said lack of transparency, shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and being unable to use their own protective masks in situations over the last few weeks has left many nurses frustrated.

“Our members are really anxious. Some are very angry, they’re all scared, and they’re just trying to get through this. They’re very disappointed in their employers as a whole for not being protected,” said Ross.

He said, however, some hospitals have changed their policies within the last few days regarding masks so that they are being re-used less.

Over the last few weeks, hospitals have been re-sterilizing masks for re-use, but Ross said many are weary about how well this works and how much protection they’re getting.

Hawaii Pacific Health (HPH), which sterilizes its masks using UV Light said, “Extensive testing of this process was conducted by our UV technology vendor and mask manufacturers to confirm this as a viable option and to outline the best procedures to follow… Results showed that the UV light was able to deactivate the virus, and the masks retained their effectiveness through 12 disinfection cycles.”

HPH said surgical masks are thrown away after four uses and N-95 masks are thrown away after six uses.

Queen’s Health System also is using sterilization for its masks.

Scott Gallacher, with the Queen’s Health System said, “The Queen’s Health Systems has continued to follow CDC guidelines regarding the use of PPE for staff who are caring for COVID-19 patients or persons under investigation (PUI).”

However, healthcare workers say they are still in the dark about certain things.

“We understand there’s shortages of PPE but management doesn’t share with us, instead they’ve been rationing it out,” said Ross.

He wants to see more done so that healthcare workers know what’s happening in their hospitals.

“What I would like to see is more transparency. Tell us how many of the supplies you have on hand, not how many days’ supply,” said Ross.

Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president said many hospitals have set strict policies for masks because of the state PPE shortage.

“The models were saying that we were going to have a huge surge, so there (were) real concerns about needing to ration or be very cautious about the amount of PPE we use because we knew how much we had, we knew how much was on water, and that was not enough,” said Raethel.

Lately that’s been changing at hospitals.

“Fortunately, we have not had the huge surge, so we’ve been able to relax our standards,” said Raethel. “When I say relax our stance, actually use more PPE, because we’ve not had the surge that we were anticipating.”

As for Ross he said, they would like to see more preparation from hospitals moving forward and changes so that what happened earlier in the outbreak doesn’t happen again.

“There’s a lot of different things that we see that could be adjusted we’re trying to work cooperatively with management,” said Ross.

He said he hopes this pandemic will be a teaching moment for everyone.

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